Last updated Jul 7, 2023 | For writers

So you’ve finally finished the first draft of your novel. Congratulations! You’ve attained a heightened state of enlightenment that many aspire to but few actually reach. But the journey’s only beginning. Once you’ve loved, wept, toiled, and edited your manuscript within an inch of its poor little life, you’re going to need beta readers to help bring your work of literary genius to its ultimate potential.

But how do you get beta readers? Don’t worry, writerly friends. We’ll guide you through the best ways of finding them. First, though, a quick refresher on what a beta reader is and why they are helpful…

What is a beta reader?

A beta reader is a book lover who is familiar with your genre and represents your broader target audience. Their job is to read your manuscript after it’s finished, but before it goes to the final editing stage. They’ll give you detailed feedback which you can use to improve your work before sending it out for publication.

Why are beta readers helpful for writers?

Beta readers help catch story-level mistakes that you’ve overlooked during your writing process. At this point, you will have spent months or years (or even decades!) staring at the same 80,000 words until your nightmares are haunted by dancing semicolons in top hats. The best thing you can do is give your manuscript a pair of fresh eyes.

Beta readers can also tell you which scenes they found most powerful, which scenes they found repetitive or unnecessary, if any worldbuilding was confusing or hard to follow (ie. magical systems, technological systems, political systems, familial structures, and so forth), and whether or not the story had a satisfying conclusion. These are all really important things to be aware of before you send your book out into the world.

Where to find beta readers

So now we know why beta readers are an important step in your book’s developmental process. Let’s look at a few different ways you can find beta readers to trust with your work.

Friends and family

Close family and friends are great. They tell you how brilliant you are, laugh politely at your witticisms, and give you honest assessments of whether your outfit makes you look ready to take on the world or ready to hit the treadmill. But can you count on them to deliver the same well-intentioned honesty about your writing?

Family and friends can be a good first step for sharing your writing because they’re easily within reach, they’ll want to support you in your blossoming career, and they’ll offer you the encouragement you need at this point in your creative process. One thing to keep in mind however, is that your family members might not be dedicated readers of your genre (or even readers at all), and may not be able to examine the mechanics of your work with a clear eye. If they do find something that isn’t working, they may hesitate to share it or they’ll share it in a gentle, filtered way. Art is very personal, after all, and they’ll know better than anyone how much your novel means to you.

Your friends and family are wonderful resources for when you need some encouragement and support. But if you’re looking for actionable feedback from your target audience that you can use to improve, you’ll usually need to look further afield.

Your writing community

Finding a community of writers is a great way to get more eyes on your work. Plus, other writers know a thing or two about crafting a narrative, creating believable characters, and enhancing powerful themes. Unlike non-writer friends, they’ll know exactly what to look for in a successful story and how to offer real, actionable advice to address narrative problems.

One thing to consider when reaching out to other working writers for feedback is that it’s generally expected to be a symbiotic artistic relationship — they may ask you for feedback on their work in progress, or to beta read for them when their first draft is finished. This means being willing to invest some of your own personal time in return. If you’re slammed with your own responsibilities, a better option may be to look at a high-quality paid beta reader service (which we’ll look at more below).

Social media

As you grow your author brand, you’ll engage with more and more readers through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well as your personal author website. This is a fantastic way to engage with readers who will offer you their feedback without asking anything in return — except that you keep writing more books!

Caveat: remember that it can be very difficult to vet people on the internet, and not all of them will have the insight you’re looking for.. Plus, they can be unreliable — it’s not uncommon for people to agree to beta read a novel, then get distracted and set it aside indefinitely.

Outsourcing beta readers through social media platforms can be a good option if you’re willing to spend time finding the right readers who are passionate about your work, similar to if you were a hiring manager looking to fill a particular role. Then, you can put together a trusted team who will help elevate your writing, and maybe even help with promotion when it hits the shelves!

Beta reading services

Another great way to find beta readers is by going through a trusted beta reading platform. These are services specially designed for this purpose, which pair authors with a reader or small group of readers who are familiar with your genre and know what to look for in a good story. The Niche Reader does all the work for you, including sourcing trusted readers, giving them detailed questionnaires about the strengths and weaknesses of your work, and holding them accountable to their commitments so you don’t have to be the one hovering awkwardly and asking them for an ETA.

These paid services do require an investment on the part of the author — unlike going through friends, fellow writers, or your adoring fans. However, beta reading services save you a lot of time and a lot of stress, in addition to ensuring the feedback you receive is genuinely helpful. This means that you can put that time back into what really matters: more writing.

Beta reader service

Our beta reader service gives you the opportunity to share your manuscript with a team of hand-picked beta readers, who will then provide detailed feedback that will help make your story as strong as it can possibly be. Our beta readers fill an important gap in the writing and editing process, providing the kind of feedback that only real readers could give.

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